The Latte that Changed My Thanksgiving


I was with my daughter a couple of weeks ago, driving my 3 Grandchildren to school.

Photo Courtesy of ©

Photo Courtesy of ©

On the way I asked if we could stop at Starbucks and get a Latte. We had a few extra minutes, so she got in the drive-thru line and waited while each car placed their order.  When we reached the window the young man said, “the car ahead of you paid for your latte.”  With jaws dropped, we looked at each other. Really? This had never happened to either of us and that simple gesture gave us an “Aha” moment.  As we drove away, I said to my daughter, “You’ll have to go back and do the same thing.”  “I will mom, I promise.“ Later that day she stopped at the same Starbucks and she, in turn, paid for the car behind.  When she got back to the house the first thing she said was, “Mom, it felt so great to do that.” I was so proud of her & and the reward she felt from giving. She gave anonymously, knowing the person couldn’t pay her back. I’ve found that giving like that creates a “heart opening” experience for the giver.

For the past several years I have had the opportunity to watch friends, fellow team members at O’Connor’s, and colleagues, show just how big their hearts are by being great examples of selfless giving. Carrie, one of our outstanding Funeral Directors & her story in particular come to mind. If you remember a couple of blogs back Carrie shared about how she gave all of us at work the opportunity to donate clothing, linens, food, water and a myriad of other essentials to a family who lost their home in the Silver Fire. I was able to donate some things and I loved the feeling I got by giving back. Believe me, there’s nothing like it!

My point is this: Thanksgiving is a time when families gather and give thanks for the blessings they have been given throughout the year: a new job, restored health, a home, a burden lifted or a second chance. But as I ponder the word Thanksgiving, I see an opportunity for a different meaning; one that can sooth a lonely soul, comfort the weary, feed the hungry and bring worth back to a broken spirit. If you take the word “Thanksgiving” at face value, you can make such a huge difference in the lives of others!  And the gift of giving and receiving is two-fold.

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 11.32.16 PMIf you would like to share this feeling of giving with me, I invite you to pick just one of the very worthy & local causes below to GIVE to.

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 11.16.04 PMA new unwrapped toy for an underprivileged child, a coat you haven’t worn in ages, or food and clothing to supply our local food bank. They would all make a significant difference in the lives of those who have extreme needs.

Coat Drive for Welcome Inn – O’Connor Mortuary is officially sponsoring a coat drive for this wonderful & local volunteer organization. Coats of any size can be brought to our Laguna Hills location and dropped off with our lovely receptionist, Diana. Click here to learn more.

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 10.08.05 PMSouth County Outreach – You can donate food, clothing or time to this wonderful organization.

Orange County Fire AuthoritySparks of Love” – A toy drive benefiting under-privileged children. Every fire station in Orange County is a drop-off location & they ask that the toys be new and unwrapped.

Age Well Senior Services“Meals on Wheels”. – $25 will give a senior 25 meals.

I’d love to here about your experiences in giving back.

Please share a time below in the comments section, or let us know if you plan on becoming a benefactor to one of our drives or any other non-profit that you’ve chosen to support.

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 11.33.15 PM

By | 2013-11-26T23:38:51-08:00 November 26th, 2013|Community, Inspiration|32 Comments


  1. Jeff Turner November 27, 2013 at 8:57 am - Reply

    I love these examples we hear about from time to time of people being “proactively nice”. It isn’t hard to do, but it does require intention. The rare moments when I have done something like this have the ability to raise my spirits, but what it can do for those around us is dynamic and unpredictable in the best sense. Today and in the days ahead I intend to be proactively nice and find little ways to celebrate what is best in all of us.


    • Patricia Kolstad December 2, 2013 at 1:08 pm - Reply

      Thank you my dear sweet friend, for sharing Tim’s mantra of being “proactively nice.” For some that’s can be a real challenge . . . for us, it’s part of who we are and what we do. Having someone encourage us is what we need, and I’m so thankful that I have you in my life to do just that. Finding ways to bring out the best in ourselves might take some doing, but it can be unbelievably easy. And what we get in return can be life changing for everyone!
      Love to you and yours,

  2. Becky Finch Lomaka November 27, 2013 at 10:11 am - Reply

    Thank you, Pat,
    What an appropriate message as we kick the holidays into high gear! “Paying it forward” is second nature to you; always looking out for others and lifting them up. Accepting a token of kindness from another person with a simple thank you and the vow to do the same for someone else is an amazing feeling. It does feel good to give!!


    • Patricia Kolstad December 2, 2013 at 12:57 pm - Reply

      Becky . .
      You above many, know what it means to give back to those who have little and want nothing. Our aging seniors in South Orange county are some of our greatest treasures, and yet they life literally “hand to mouth” to get by. I do hope some of our readers will take notice and give the Age Well’s Meals on Wheels. I know how much this means to a senior living alone and on very limited income. It means a smiling face, someone who cares for their needs, and will be back tomorrow to see them again. It’s a travesty that we have this . . but a blessing that Age Well is doing something about it. Thank you for the good works you did on behalf of these very special people. You and I both know how important it is!
      Blessings to you and your family . . .

  3. Molly Keating November 27, 2013 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    I love your blog & the wonderful giving-revolution behind it. I actually had the urging to pay for someone’s meal behind me at a drive-thru this last spring. I had accidentally cut them off driving and felt horrible about it. It was my way of saying sorry & showing them that I felt they were valuable even though I’d failed to show that in my driving. I hope they felt it.

    I can attest to the feeling of great peace & joy in knowing I was surprising them & hopefully making their day a little better.

    Thanks for the blog auntie Pat, and for sharing your idea with our whole audience.

    I will be donating coats & other clothing this year and I’m more excited about it than I ever have been before. Love you, Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Patricia Kolstad December 2, 2013 at 12:53 pm - Reply

      My sweet Molly . .
      This blog was one that I loved writing about, and learning about what I would call the real meaning of the word “Thanks-Giving”. We all know the old saying “It’s better to give than to receive.” Well, it’s so very true. Most of us wait a lifetime to feel that deepening in our hearts when we give unselfishly. I know that from this day forward I will be different because of that one small gesture that surprised us to know end. Just think how someone who really needed a meal or a coat would feel by getting one without reservation. Unbelievable!!!
      Thank you for sharing your story . . . even if it was to say in some small way, “I’m sorry! You did great!

  4. Lori November 27, 2013 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    Perfect timing and perfect time of year for this reminder to not only give thanks, but to give to others. I have gotten to the age where I definitely enjoy giving more than receiving. I have been blessed beyond measure and really do not need any more material possessions. The children in my life are typically my weakness. I have always loved spoiling my little “nieces” and “nephews” since I was in my twenties.
    Anonymous giving is my favorite…keeping myself in check and making sure I am giving for the cause, not the applause….
    Thank you again for this wonderful reminder…
    Thankful for you!
    xoxo Lori

    • Patricia Kolstad December 2, 2013 at 12:41 pm - Reply

      So grateful for you and your “give to the cause” heart. We all should seek out a cause or non-profit that can help those who are less fortunate than ourselves. I love the fact that we are sponsoring a coat drive again this year. It makes me feel good knowing someone will be warmer than maybe they were before. We are blessed, aren’t we?

  5. Fitz December 1, 2013 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    Hi Pat,

    Thanks for sharing your experience and reminding me how good it can feel to give without an expectation of reciprocation. I had a young man come up to me the other day in a shopping center parking lot and ask if I had some spare change so he could get a meal. I’m usually hesitant to give because I fear the money is going to be used to support an addiction. So I asked him where he was going to eat. He pointed to a fast food restaurant across the parking lot. So I gave him some money and off he went. I watched as he indeed walked into the restaurant. It felt good to know he was truly someone who needed a hand up. Random acts are awesome ways to give and be thankful you did. Blessings to you and your family this holiday season.

    • patricia kolstad December 2, 2013 at 12:20 pm - Reply

      Fitz.. thank you so much for sharing your “random act of kindness”. I think we are all sometimes question those who ask for money. But you, in your gracious way, trusted the young man, who indeed needed a meal. Thank you for giving away so that someone else could receive! What a blessing that must have been for him and you!

  6. Patricia Kolstad December 2, 2013 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    I’m so very proud of you Michael . . You have learned at a young age where you can be a “giver” for life. You’re willingness to be that in your work and now in your every day life will bring you blessings abundant.

  7. Patricia Kolstad December 2, 2013 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    Joe . .
    Thank you for sharing how Rotarians are all about “service above self.” I have learned many great lessons on the act of giving without reciprocation. It makes us all realize that there are so many of our fellow man that deserve a “hand up”,
    as Fitz so wonderfully stated. We should give from the heart . . to make others feel cared for not pitied. Thank you for your leadership in our community and being the example of selfless acts of kindness.
    Your friend. . .

  8. Patricia Kolstad December 2, 2013 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    My dear friend . . . I have learned much from you and I am grateful. Moving through life we learn what becomes most important to us . . Faith, family, friends, colleagues, and those who need our help most. If not us . . . then who? If not now . . . when? It has to start with us, leading the way and showing our children what compassion really is. I know your dad is an ever present example of selfless giving. I have learned so much from him as well. Always, always thinking of others. Thank you for giving our team the opportunity to give back. It blesses my heart!

  9. Patricia Kolstad December 2, 2013 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    My dear, sweet friend.
    You are such a blessing in my life. I cherish our friendship. Thank you for your remarks, and for the opportunities I know you have to give back to your community. I’m grateful for the blessings I have received over the years and for an opportunity now to become a life long giver from this day forward. It’s easy and you don’t have to have the holidays to do it!
    Blessing you and yours,

  10. Patricia Kolstad December 2, 2013 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much, Tom.
    You are so on point with your remarks. We do live in a world of “I deserve everything and more!” Giving for the joy of giving is an something each and everyone of us should experience.
    Blessings to you and your family,

  11. Patricia Kolstad December 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    Carrie . . thank you!
    You were the first person I thought of when I began writing, for you gave us all a chance to be part of a bigger picture by donating to the Anderson’s. It was great to have a chance to chat with you the other day and get an update on how they are doing. It was special to hear they are moving on with their lives and have a home. And I love the fact that it “feels weird when you don GIVE!” I want all of us to have that mindset. We are a blessed people, and we should be offering up our surplus to those who need it most.
    Thank you for your selfless giving. You are a great example of the joy that can be found!

  12. Patricia Kolstad December 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    Lisa . . I have felt like part of this family forever, and I thank you so much for that loving comment. When we all work as one for the better good, things happen! Thanks so much for donating! It will mean the difference between cold and comfort. Blessings to your sweet family!

  13. Kristen December 2, 2013 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    Hi Mom. That day was awesome! That feeling warmed me up inside more than my soy latte! I think it is so important to slow the pace, especially during the holidays, and create time to give back. We have created a gift bag as a family for the last couple of years to donate to our church’s “Gifts to the Manger”. The goodies benefit the Downtown Associated Youth Services in Long Beach which sill supply needy families in the downtown area with meals and gifts for their children during the holidays. Thanks for the list of other local charities. This is the giving season and when you jump on board it just feels so good! Love you. Kristen

    • Patricia Kolstad December 2, 2013 at 2:34 pm - Reply

      Thank you Daughter!
      What an experience for both of us. Even though I have given to many non-profits, causes and individuals, I had never experienced someone doing that, in turn, to me (you). Thank you for teaching my grandchildren the meaning of giving to those who have little. You will raise kids with awareness and compassion. And isn’t that what “giving” is all about? Next time I’m down to visit, let’s do that again!
      I love you!

  14. Patricia Kolstad December 2, 2013 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    Amen Mark!
    I like the way you think. And you are absolutely correct. Should we not give so that other’s can know joy? I appreciate your words and we are a blessed people. But even more so, as we give.Blessings to you and yours.

  15. Amy December 2, 2013 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    My daughter’s and I for the past 2 years have taken our christmas money for my parents and we donate to the Ronald McDonald House in Orange. It gives me great joy to see my daughter plan out what she is going to buy. She looks at what is needed in the house and for the children. She makes a list of the stores that we need to go to and what she needs to buy. Once we have everything ready we take it all to the Ronald McDonald House and I can’t tell you how much joy and pride that comes to my heart to see her smile as she delivers her gifts. it is not much but boy does it feel good. We are now in the process of getting this year’s donations together. I’m sure it will feel even better this year just being able to give back and the lesson that it teaches my girls. Thanks for sharing your experience and letting us know that there are still good people in the world.
    Blessing to you

    • Patricia Kolstad December 18, 2013 at 10:03 am - Reply

      You have taught your daughters well. Once our children get the opportunity to show love and compassion to those less fortunate, it will become part of who they are. I have watched Neil’s father continue his legacy of giving back. His passion is contagious and his desire to provide for others is always at the forefront of his thoughts. Thank you for sharing this sweet story. Well done!

  16. Greg Forster December 3, 2013 at 2:30 pm - Reply

    Hi Pat,

    “Paying it Forward” truly does bring us satisfaction. I remember seeing the movie “Pay it Forward” and remembering the unique outlook and feeling it made apparent:just seeing everyday people take on the role of unknown benefactor, especially those that didn’t have much, but made up for it with positive actions and emotions.

    Every year in October, all the Knights of Columbus Councils in all Catholic parishes do an annual “Tootsie Roll” drive to provide much needed funds for camps and other needs for those who are mentally retarded. I use the term “mentally retarded” because I have a brother who has this condition. This is the diagnosis. As times change, titles also change, so now the correct political term in society is “mentally or developmentally challenged”—same condition…new spin on it…and that’s O.K. so long as people just pay attention and remember that everyone EVERYONE in society has value and is entitled in their own way to experience some of the joys of life. So I have a special connection once a year to participate in this event.

    Back to the “Tootsie” drive (personally can’t say they are my favorite). We stand in front of local supermarkets or other venues for 2 hour shifts, holding the special rolls with our logo and positive messages printed inside and out, wearing bright yellow and red aprons, carrying cans and offering a roll in friendship to anyone who has the charity to look our way, acknowledge our presence and maybe contribute. It could be a quarter, it could be $20 dollars, some people take the role, others shun it or ask us to give to someone who would like one, but doesn’t have any money.

    We give of our time, and I missed last year, so on a whim, I decided to do a double shift. What a good choice it was! In the second shift, I had the opportunity to have short conversations with some very interesting people (the joy of just meeting people on the spot is a simple, nice joy!)

    …and again I had the realization that, if you make the opportunity to give, you may also make the opportunity to receive:just be open to receiving in unexpected ways.

    Isn’t this the way that we make sense out of life?

    Thank you, Greg

    • Patricia Kolstad December 18, 2013 at 9:22 am - Reply

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I too, remember the movie, “Pay it Forward.” Very powerful, poignant and to the point. It changed lives in miraculous ways. Giving back should happen all year long, and we know too well, that the Spirit of the Season only happens for a couple of months at the end of the year. How do we make it last? By not giving up the desire to perpetuate what we believe to be right and good, and doing it all year long.


  17. Elsa December 4, 2013 at 11:17 am - Reply

    I love this story. You have really encouraged me to do something like this. I think the idea of paying it forward to a complete stranger without looking for recognition is great. We get so caught up in our day to day activities and when you are the recipient of a random act of kindness, it makes your day so special and you in turn want to act kindly to all those around you. Thank You for reminding us all on how important “just being nice” really is.

    • Patricia Kolstad December 18, 2013 at 9:14 am - Reply

      I see you doing this every time I have an opportunity to observe the way to connect with our grieving families. Your continual “acts of kindness” are always very evident, very intentional and very well received. You give of yourself so that others will feel cared for. Thank you for being the wonderful person you are, and for communicating warmth and caring to your fellow man. You are a gift!


  18. Shayna Mallik December 4, 2013 at 11:17 am - Reply


    First off sorry for the delay response. What a great story, it is definitely a reminder to give back. It is nice to se people doing the nice gestures still today. I love how your daughter went back and payed for the people behind her drinks. That is great, I am going to do that as well. Its funny it is such a simple thing to do but it slips our minds. Thank you for the great story and remind us all during the holiday season to give back to our community and our friends and family.

    <3 Shayna

    • Patricia Kolstad December 18, 2013 at 9:11 am - Reply

      Hi Little One,
      I’m finding out that acts of kindness don’t always have to be monetary or tangible. It could simply be a kind word or a warm hug. I think most of us try and do that in our daily lives with our family, and I would like to make sure that I do that at O’Connor’s. We never know who might be having a really hard day and could use a random “word of kindness”, to help them through. I see this in you all the time!
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts . .

  19. Jenn December 5, 2013 at 10:50 am - Reply

    Pat, what a great story, I have had someone in front of me at starbucks purchase my drink. It was an older man and I could see him looking at me in the rear view mirror and was really creeped out not knowing what was going on, and when I got to the window I was told he paid for my drink. Then I felt like a jerk not knowing if he was creepy or just a really nice person, the gesture really made my day though and I returned the favor at a drive through a few days later when I saw a mom and her two kids in the car behind me. It was a great feeling. I will be bringing in some coats to O’Connor! 🙂

    • Patricia Kolstad December 18, 2013 at 9:07 am - Reply

      Hi Jenn:
      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. Most often we put up our defenses and move our thoughts to the negative side. I think we are all just being “careful” when we encounter something out of our comfort zone. I’m thankful, though, that you moved in a positive direction and chose to “pay it forward.” We never know how we can touch someone by doing an “act of kindness.” You proved that those wonderful traits can reveal themselves if we just let them!. Thank you!


  20. Christopher Iverson December 16, 2013 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    My Rotary Club in San Juan Capistrano has an annual Thanksgiving food drive that cares for the needy families of San Jun School and the marines at Camp Pendleton. Just to be able to be a part of making these special lives complete on Thanksgiving is a blessing all of its own.

    • Patricia Kolstad December 18, 2013 at 9:03 am - Reply

      Hi Chris . . Your Rotary Club is so wonderfully connected to the families in San Juan. I know of the good works that you do as a member and, as a fellow Rotarian, that’s what we are called to do . . “service above self”. Thanks for sharing your experiences.


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